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City Council leads the way in dedication of new center

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The water fountain at the Sunnyside Community Center was officially turned on at the conclusion of the open house and dedication ceremonies held Monday night at the community center. The $1.8 million center opened April 5 in South Hill Park.

Monday night was truly a momentous occasion for the City of Sunnyside.

After nearly three decades, the citizens of Sunnyside finally have a community center to call their own.

The Sunnyside City Council led the way last night at the dedication ceremonies for the Sunnyside Community Center at South Hill Park.

The Council conducted its regular Monday meeting at the community center to coincide with dedication ceremonies last night. There were also several special guests on hand, including former City Manager Dave Fonfara, State Senator Jim Honeyford and Yakima County Commissioner Jesse Palacios.

Mayor Ed Prilucik opened the evening with some thoughts on the road that has been taken with the construction of the community center.

Prilucik said for years the residents of Sunnyside have had in place recreation programs to keep them busy, but have never had a facility to utilize.

"Now, we have the facility," said Prilucik. "This is definitely a community center to be dedicated to the citizens of Sunnyside."

Sunnyside Parks and Recreation Director Tom Byers provided those in attendance with some background on the community center project. While there has been discussions for decades about building a community center, Byers said he became formally involved with the idea in 1993 when a group of citizens led by Greg Uberuaga talked about the possibility of having such a place. Discussions lingered until May 1998 when a community center planning committee was formed, involving such people as Fonfara and Ruben Carrera. The city began a feasibility study for the center in August 1998. The study was completed by April 1999.

Byers said the final feasibility study had the center at 26,000 square feet in size with a price tag of $2.4 million. Through the efforts of the city's architectural firm for the project, Calvin Jordan Associates of Bellevue, the size of the community center was reduced to 9,850 square feet at a cost of $1.8 million.

In March 2001, the city received a $750,000 state grant.

In December 2002, Council awarded the bid to lay the center foundation, putting into motion the construction phase for the community center.

Byers said he is very proud of the work that was done with the community center by everyone involved. He said a lot of time and effort went into making sure the building is a quality facility.

Prilucik then opened the evening to the special guests in attendance.

Fonfara said he knows that there were discussions for a community center since he was appointed the city's first parks and recreation director in February 1980.

Fonfara gave a lot of credit to two current Sunnyside councilmen, Mike Farmer and Don Vlieger, for their hard work in helping bring the community center to life.

"I played a small role in this community center," said Fonfara. "But I am as proud as anybody here."

"It is a needed facility," said Senator Honeyford, a former Sunnyside councilman. "It is something we have been looking for."

State Representative Dan Newhouse told the audience Sunnyside has desired to have a community center for many years. Newhouse said when he graduated from Sunnyside High School in 1973 the most common words that were uttered out of the mouths of young people were there was no place to go or anything to do.

"Kids, you can't say that any more," said Newhouse. "This is a great day for the town. I look forward to many great years and a lot of service out of this center."

Palacios, a former mayor of neighboring Grandview, was on hand to extend his congratulations to the city. Palacios also shared how Sunnyside has been discussing for many years the need for a community center. Palacios said the new community center shows what people who work together can achieve.

"Today is a blue-ribbon day for the City of Sunnyside," said Palacios.

Former Sunnyside Mayor Don Hughes wanted to extend his thanks to the current city council for the work members have done. He said in 1973 the discussion for a community center began, but at the time all that was taking place was discussions.

"Thinking didn't get it done," said Hughes. "I hope all of you will join me in thanking this city council in front of you right now."

After a few comments from current Sunnyside City Manager Robert Stockwell, who said he would do his best to ensure the community center is utilized properly for the citizens, Byers ended the evening thanking those involved. Byers said he is thankful for the support of the Council in the parks department projects. He cited the Council's support with such endeavors as SunnyView Park, the swimming pool and the various other projects taking place.

"This just adds another jewel in our crown," said Byers.

The city has contracted with Washington State Migrant Council to manage the community center.

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